Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD in its true form can be quite a life debilitating illness, as it can cause suffers great difficulty in completing everyday tasks and can even stop individuals from doing important daily tasks altogether. It can affect men and women of all ages, starting from as early as puberty. 

The true meaning of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviours that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions).

Often, the person carries out the behaviours to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, feeling that if they don’t, something bad will happen. It’s become quite normal for people to say “I’m a bit OCD about that” – this could relate to you liking the kitchen in order before bed, as if it isn’t in perfect order, you could have a bit of a restless night knowing it hasn’t been left exactly how you like it. This would be classed as a “trait” of OCD, meaning it has similarities but is not the actual disorder.

If you suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in full, it would mean there is no way you could have gone to bed without making sure the kitchen is exactly as you need it to be, as your thoughts would not let you sleep, as the fear of something bad happening and the compulsion would take over.

Rituals associated with obsessive compulsive disorder

As you learn more about OCD and become committed (hopefully!) to making changes by fighting back against your obsessive compulsive disorder, you may be feeling hopeful that exposure and response prevention(ERP) can actually work and that your life can become a little less stressful and more normal once again.

However, feelings of hope may also be shared with feelings of being overwhelmed by just how many areas of your life are ruled by OCD. The more years that OCD has held you hostage, often the greater the areas of disruption.

While ERP can be effective, it may take quite some time, usually weeks and even months, for you to start to see the positive effects of your ERP efforts. Try not to get disheartened, as you will get there. With determination to change, you will learn to control your OCD, rather than allow it to keep controlling you.

Change the ritual

This tool is exactly how it sounds. Just because the OCD demands that you engage in a ritual, it doesn’t mean you have to do it the exact way your OCD dictates. Having you, instead of your OCD, decide how the ritual gets done can be a powerful message to your OCD that you will not be bossed about.

For example, if your OCD wants you to wash your hands after touching a range of “dirty” items, it doesn’t mean you have to wash your hands in the exact way OCD demands: with 3 pumps of soap, 3 rinses and 3 paper towels, instead you can try 2 pumps, 3 rinses and 2 paper towels. You CAN decide what it will be or mix up the number pattern every time. The trick is to KEEP OCD GUESSING!!!

Shorten the ritual

This tool is similar to changing the ritual as above. However, instead of changing the ritual, in this option you can shorten it. For example, if you have a dressing ritual that involves a series of dressing and undressing steps that can last up to an hour to get dressed each day, you can start to shorten this. You can begin by estimating how much time you spend on each step and then shorten each step by a set amount each day or week. It’s up to you how many minutes and when you are ready to shorten further, but at least it’s you who is deciding how long it will take and not the OCD.

Delay the ritual

For most individuals with OCD, OCD makes demands and wants it done NOW!! However, you can send your own powerful message when your actions communicate otherwise by stating: “yeah, I’ll do it, but I’m doing it on my timeline, not yours.”

When OCD makes a demand for action, rather than doing the ritual immediately, try waiting a few seconds or minutes before you do the ritual. Over time, you can lengthen this gap by minutes to as much as a few hours before doing the ritual and there is a bonus side effect – the longer you delay, the weaker your urge to ritualise becomes and sometimes, you may not even feel the need to do the ritual at all! That’s a huge success and exactly what you’re aiming for.

Slow down the ritual

Some adults with OCD have many rituals spaced so close in time that they feel forced to have to rush through them to get them done. Unfortunately, this pressure to rush sometimes backfires. This can cause the person to have to go back and re-do the ritual because OCD doubt wiggles its way into their brain, making them wonder “did I really get all the soap off?” or “did I accidentally touch the dirty spot when I left the room?” i

If this situation occurs with your OCD, this slow down tool will allow you to be more in control with your actions by doing the rituals in a slower or more deliberate way to prevent the need to go back and re-do rituals. For example, rather than rushing through the house checking window locks at high speed but then worrying a particular lock was not checked properly and having to return to check not only that lock but to re-check all the locks, you can do the first “checking” ritual slowly.

As you are checking slowly, you might say, “I’m seeing and feeling that this lock is secure”, as you mindfully notice the lock in the locked position, feeling it with your fingers. If this is done slowly and mindfully once, it can take less time then in the “fast” check, where you found you needed to return and re-check repeatedly.

No air

This final tool allows for a combination of other tools. It stands for No Avoidance, Interaction or Reassurance seeking. The goal is to eliminate all three of the following behaviours:

Avoidance only serves to increase the power of OCD. When you engage in rituals, you do so to avoid feelings of discomfort or anxiety but this keeps you hostage to your OCD. In addition, OCD can also boss people around and tell them not to go places or do things. In other words, to avoid doing things because it’s dangerous. It can take a lot of courage but by engaging in ERP exercises and reducing and eliminating your dependence rituals, you can learn first hand that you can tolerate discomfort and anxiety better than you expected. Additionally, rather than reducing your life to a small circle of “approved” activities, start going to places and doing things OCD has previously forbidden. Avoid avoiding!

Take the power back

Interacting with your OCD keeps it hanging around. Although it is hard to ignore OCD, given its wide and persistent presence in your life, you do not have to interact with it. Interacting with it occurs when you do the rituals it tells you to do or you avoid the activities and aspects of your life that it insists are dangerous.

STOP interacting with OCD and start engaging with the life you want to live!  Reassurance seeking is the final area that needs to change to help you take control of your OCD. Seeking less reassurance from others allows you to become stronger in managing your OCD, reducing its power over you by no longer being afraid of it.


Challenge negative thinking associated with OCD

Questions to ask yourself to help challenge your negative thoughts or self-talk:

  • Am I falling into a thinking trap, of overthinking and catastrophising?
  • What is the evidence that this thought is true?
  • Have I confused a thought with a fact?
  • What would I tell a friend if he/she had the same thoughts?
  • What would a friend say about my thought?
  • Am I 100% sure that this will happen?
  • How many times has this happened before?
  • What is the worse that could happen?
  • If it did happen, what could I do to cope with or handle it?
  • Is my judgement based on the way I feel instead of facts?
  • Am I confusing “possibility” with “certainty”? It may be possible, but is it likely/rational?

Learn to relax more and take up positive distractions to strengthen your mind and help you on this journey. See our relaxation page for tips!

If you find that you are still struggling to cope with the hold OCD has on your day-to-day life, get in touch with our lovely team to arrange your first therapy session with one of our experienced counsellors.

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